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Ancient Lavas in Shenandoah National Park Near Luray, Virginia


Ancient Lavas in
Near Luray, Virginia

John C. Reed, Jr.

In the Blue Ridge Province of northern Virginia, Maryland, and southern Pennsylvania, Lower Cambrian beds are underlain by a thick sequence of greenstone and interbedded sedimentary rocks known as the Catoctin Formation. An area near Luray, Va., was studied to determine the thickness of the formation, its relationship to overlying and underlying rocks, and the original nature of the lavas from which the Catoctin greenstone was derived. There the Catoctin Formation lies unconformably on granitic rocks. Its basal sedimentary layer ranges from a few inches to 150 feet in thickness and contains pebbles of underlying basement rocks. The erosion surface beneath the Catoctin is irregular, and in several places, hills as much as 1,000 feet high were buried beneath the Catoctin lavas. No important time break is indicated between the deposition of the Catoctin Formation and the overlying Cambrian sediments.

The original Catoctin lavas were basaltic and were probably normal plateau basalts. Columnar joints, amygdules, sedimentary dikes, flow breccias low-dipping primary joints, and other primary structures are well preserved.

The summit profile of Stony Man (alt. 4,010 ft.) on the crest of the Blue Ridge and the Little Stony Man Cliffs (left) are outcrops of ancient lava flows of the Catoctin Formation described in this report.

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Last Updated: 28-Jan-2007